March 7, 2014
Meet ‘Dear Zelda,’ the Advice Column for NSA Workers

The NSA is, on top of everything else, a workplace. Which means that NSA workers have to deal with things like: that supervisor who doesn’t respond to emails. And that guy down the hall who’s a disruptively loud phone-talker. And that unopened box of Ham & Cheese Hot Pockets that’s been taking up valuable freezer space for months now because no one wants to admit that it’s theirs. 

In 2010, to help its staff deal with these everyday workplace annoyances, the NSA launched an advice column—available on the agency’s intranet, and accessible only to employees with the proper security clearance. (We know about it now via The Intercept: It was one of the documents leaked by Edward Snowden.) The column was called "Dear Zelda," and it was a mechanism through which NSA workers could (anonymously) seek advice about the tricky business of dealing with fellow NSA workers. 
The first column involved a sartorial conundrum.
Read more. [Image: Shutterstock/baranq]

Meet ‘Dear Zelda,’ the Advice Column for NSA Workers

The NSA is, on top of everything else, a workplace. Which means that NSA workers have to deal with things like: that supervisor who doesn’t respond to emails. And that guy down the hall who’s a disruptively loud phone-talker. And that unopened box of Ham & Cheese Hot Pockets that’s been taking up valuable freezer space for months now because no one wants to admit that it’s theirs.

In 2010, to help its staff deal with these everyday workplace annoyances, the NSA launched an advice column—available on the agency’s intranet, and accessible only to employees with the proper security clearance. (We know about it now via The Intercept: It was one of the documents leaked by Edward Snowden.) The column was called "Dear Zelda," and it was a mechanism through which NSA workers could (anonymously) seek advice about the tricky business of dealing with fellow NSA workers. 

The first column involved a sartorial conundrum.

Read more. [Image: Shutterstock/baranq]

August 23, 2013
Ask Alison: The App That Lets Women Rate Men By Looks and Income

Good advice from someone who is terrible at dating.
Read more. [Image: garyknight/Flickr]

Ask Alison: The App That Lets Women Rate Men By Looks and Income

Good advice from someone who is terrible at dating.

Read more. [Image: garyknight/Flickr]

August 2, 2013
Ask Alison: How to Break Up

July 16, 2013
Ask Alison: When (Not) to Fake an Orgasm

June 11, 2013
"The old adage is true—writing is rewriting. But it takes a kind of courage to confront your own awfulness (and you will be awful) and realize that, if you sleep on it, you can come back and bang at the thing some more, and it will be less awful. And then you sleep again, and bang even more, and you have something middling. Then you sleep some more, and bang, and you get something that is actually coherent. Hopefully when you are done you have a piece that reasonably approximates the music in your head. And some day, having done that for years, perhaps you will get something that is even better than the music in your head. Becoming a better writer means becoming a re-writer. But that first phase is so awful that most people don’t want any part."

Ta-Nehisi Coates

12:22pm
  
Filed under: Writing Advice 
January 18, 2013
theweekmagazine:

Dear Abby: My boyfriend is going to be 20 years old next month. I’d like to give him something nice for his birthday. What do you think he’d like? —CarolDear Carol: Nevermind what he’d like, give him a tie.
Dear Abby: Our son married a girl when he was in the service. They were married in February and she had an 8 1/2-pound baby girl in August. She said the baby was premature. Can an 8 1/2-pound baby be this premature? —Wanting to KnowDear Wanting: The baby was on time. The wedding was late. Forget it. 
Here, 13 of Dear Abby’s best zingers.

theweekmagazine:

Dear Abby: My boyfriend is going to be 20 years old next month. I’d like to give him something nice for his birthday. What do you think he’d like? —Carol
Dear Carol: Nevermind what he’d like, give him a tie.

Dear Abby: Our son married a girl when he was in the service. They were married in February and she had an 8 1/2-pound baby girl in August. She said the baby was premature. Can an 8 1/2-pound baby be this premature? —Wanting to Know
Dear Wanting: The baby was on time. The wedding was late. Forget it. 

Here, 13 of Dear Abby’s best zingers.

1:02pm
  
Filed under: Advice Journalism Humor 
January 8, 2013
Actually, Don’t Write Like You’re Dead

After all, Shakespeare retailed royalist propaganda; Ezra Pound was an anti-Semitic idiot. And, for that matter, George Bernard Shaw wrote about the evils of vivisection and Richard Wright wrote about the evils of the Jim Crow south. They weren’t beyond or outside their times; they were smack in the middle of them. And if you’re a writer, your time and place will shape you too. What’s so scary about that? Your parents, or someone, taught you the language you’re using, and once you’ve begun in such a derivative manner, it seems silly to be embarrassed to go on with it. You can spend your existence constantly looking over your own shoulder for fear of contagion. Or you could instead assume that you are still capable of listening, learning, changing, making mistakes, and, if you’re lucky, even of making a little money like Trollope now and then. Write, in short, as if you are alive, both because the alternative is cramped and stupid, and because you don’t have any other choice.
Read more. [Images: Public domain, Reuters, AP]

Actually, Don’t Write Like You’re Dead

After all, Shakespeare retailed royalist propaganda; Ezra Pound was an anti-Semitic idiot. And, for that matter, George Bernard Shaw wrote about the evils of vivisection and Richard Wright wrote about the evils of the Jim Crow south. They weren’t beyond or outside their times; they were smack in the middle of them. And if you’re a writer, your time and place will shape you too. What’s so scary about that? Your parents, or someone, taught you the language you’re using, and once you’ve begun in such a derivative manner, it seems silly to be embarrassed to go on with it. You can spend your existence constantly looking over your own shoulder for fear of contagion. Or you could instead assume that you are still capable of listening, learning, changing, making mistakes, and, if you’re lucky, even of making a little money like Trollope now and then. Write, in short, as if you are alive, both because the alternative is cramped and stupid, and because you don’t have any other choice.

Read more. [Images: Public domain, Reuters, AP]

3:19pm
  
Filed under: Writer Writing Art Advice 
October 19, 2012

rachelgiulia said: I've been doing newspaper and lit./arts magazine design in college, but I don't know any code, just InDesign. How can I turn this into something cool or employable? WHO ARE THE MYSTERY MEN AND WOMEN BEHIND YOUR PAGES?

Hi Rachel,

You’ve probably heard this before, but there’s no “right” way to get a job—especially a job in journalism. Anybody who says otherwise is feeding you nonsense.

My advice? Stay with what excites you. Find the smart people who are the best at doing what you want to do, and then (privately) critique their work—it’ll help you learn why they’re the best. Make stuff on your own and share it with the world. Work hard. Never assume that anything will be given to you. 

Also, internships. The unfortunate reality of our industry is that if you have the financial ability to bear the cost of an unpaid internship, you’re at an advantage. Paid or unpaid, though, internships are an excellent opportunity to meet other people who work in journalism. When an internship ends, stay in touch with your old bosses. Relationships matter.

If you stick with what interests you, you may be surprised to end up somewhere unexpected. (For example, I never worked in social media before coming to The Atlantic.) So, don’t fight changes—run with them. As long as you’re excited about you’re doing, or working toward a job that’ll give you that privilege, you’re on the right track. 

Good luck! I’m rooting for you.

- Chris

(p.s. I’m the guy on the left.)

10:58am
  
Filed under: Advice Journalism Jobs 
September 19, 2012
‘Make Sure You Read a Lot of Books’: 10 Writing Rules From Zadie Smith
When still a child, make sure you read a lot of books. Spend more time doing this than anything else.
When an adult, try to read your own work as a stranger would read it, or even better, as an enemy would.
Don’t romanticise your ‘vocation’. You can either write good sentences or you can’t. There is no ‘writer’s lifestyle’. All that matters is what you leave on the page.

Read more. [Image: AP] [via Brain Pickings]

‘Make Sure You Read a Lot of Books’: 10 Writing Rules From Zadie Smith

  1. When still a child, make sure you read a lot of books. Spend more time doing this than anything else.
  2. When an adult, try to read your own work as a stranger would read it, or even better, as an enemy would.
  3. Don’t romanticise your ‘vocation’. You can either write good sentences or you can’t. There is no ‘writer’s lifestyle’. All that matters is what you leave on the page.

Read more. [Image: AP] [via Brain Pickings]

July 27, 2012
7 Interesting Things You Can Say to Change the Subject When Someone Starts Talking About the Olympics

Them: “So-and-so won a bronze medals!”
You: “That’s fascinating. Did you know bronze is composed of roughly 88 percent copper and 12 percent tin? Its melting point is about 1742 degrees Fahrenheit.”

Them: “I wonder how London’s dealing with the Olympics.”
You: “That’s fascinating. More fascinating is how London dealt with World War II aerial bombardment. Working people basically forced their way into the tube stations during the Blitzkrieg, where they slept on the platforms.”

Read the rest.

2:21pm
  
Filed under: Olympics Sports Advice 
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